11.3.1973 Vienna

Whether in tribute to the Vienesse Joe Zawinul or simply the musical pedigree of the Austrian capital, Miles’ electric-period performances in Vienna were never less than remarkable. Though his set with the Lost Quintet offered a captivating peek at the psychedelia he’d explore in early 1970, and his 1971 show was a 100+ minute heavy funk thriller, this 1973 performance at the Vienna Stadthalle tops them all.

Expertly filmed for broadcast by Austrian state television, this document is an essential look at Miles’ 1973 band in all its glory – telepathic in its precision, fearlessly adventurous, and heady beyond belief.

As the band and crew prep the stage for Miles’ arrival, a generously long intro allows us to absorb some fascinating minutiae – a tangle of cables, Pete Cosey’s table of percussion odds and ends, Reggie Lucas’ rarely-seen pedal stash. Tools expertly honed for maximum impact on an audience that looks hilariously ill-prepared for what lies ahead.

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11.2.1973 Ludwigshafen

With many stops on the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival in Europe so lavishly documented in broadcast fidelity and full-color film, shows like the septet’s November 2nd stop in Ludwigshafen are a relative anomaly: no photos have surfaced, no video circulates, and a cavernous audience tape is our only evidence. Thankfully, our taper is a good one, capturing both sets more or less in their entirety in front of a crowd that may have bitten off more than it could chew.

As if documented from the furthest reaches of the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle arena, the first set opens up with the band sounding a mile away before we zoom in for a better listen around a minute 30. Forget about focusing on individual instruments – it’s a fool’s errand with this mix. Instead, take in the band as a whole and zero in on the relentless chug of “Turnaroundphrase” as Miles gives the septet room to jam and stretch the groove at will. The long segue into “Tune in 5” is remarkable, with the band overlapping the tunes like a long cross fade before Miles drops the intensity mid solo and pushes the whole affair into a standalone jam. Dave Liebman solos beautifully atop a halting groove that opens up and gets heavy as Miles takes over before cueing “Untitled Original” on a dime. Miles’ stage direction is particularly great throughout the first set, using stop/starts with precision, and dropping segues that allow it all to flow with ease.

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11.1.1973 Berlin

The site of stunning electric gigs in 1969 and 1971, Miles returned to the Berlin Philharmonie for a pair of shows on the first of November, 1973. Recorded for radio and television by West Berlin public broadcaster, Sender Freies Berlin, the evening’s first show was released in full on the 2015 set, Miles Davis at Newport 1955–1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 and captured in an expansive photo set by Jan Persson (excerpts below). Video of the set surfaces occasionally and I’ve included the currently available clips further down. It’s unknown if the later 10pm set was recorded, but there’s no tape in circulation.

Having built momentum across the first week of its Euro tour with standout shows in Stockholm and Copenhagen, the Miles Davis septet unleashes hell on what was surely an unsuspecting crowd of Berliners. Following an introduction by London club owner, Ronnie Scott, the band explodes into “Turnaroundphrase” with literal tape-saturating intensity as Miles stabs through the tapestry with remarkable ferocity, folded over and nearly disappearing into a comically long scarf as he channels spirits unknown through the wah pedal. Don’t bother adjusting your receiver, the entirety of this official tape remains firmly in the red thanks to either the band’s overwhelming stage volume or a little too much gain on the soundboard – any route, Sony’s choice to release such a blown-out tape is definitely a bold move.

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10.29.1973 Copenhagen

Two days removed from a remarkable TV broadcast from Stockholm, Miles returned to the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen for his final concert from the stage on which he’d performed many times since his 1960 tour with his first great quintet. While his 1969 gig with the Lost Quintet was documented in stunning full color and a superb radio broadcast captured his short-lived 1971 band in all its Drunken Master glory, neither performance really showcased either electric ensemble in full flight. As luck would have it, this rough and somewhat rare audience recording from October of ’73 tops them all.

Tivoli Concert Hall in 2018.

With limited historical info available on the tour’s logistics, it’s unknown why the band would perform two sets on certain stops and a single set on others, but the audience here in Copenhagen was treated to the best of both – a hulking, 90-minute slab of music with the full drama and focused intensity of a single, unbroken set. Remarkably, though the document’s awash in reverb, the mix is a great one, with every instrument identifiable and Reggie Lucas’ constant wah clear as a bell. A brief snipped of chatter from our taper sets the scene before “Turnaroundphrase” explodes out of the speakers and Miles begins an extraordinary (and extraordinarily long) solo. A few impeccable stop/starts prove the band is both technically and energetically down for the fight, while the intensity remains damn near overwhelming until a cooldown mid-“Tune in 5” brings some relief.

An assault of tape splices and digital glitches interrupts the simmering groove that stretches across the first half of “Ife”, chopping brilliant solos from Liebman (on flute), Miles and Pete Cosey into music concrète. (I’ll re-post improved audio if I’m fortunate enough to find it). Eventually smoothing out and settling into a luxurious pace, “Ife” sprawls without meandering before reaching a logical conclusion and pivoting into “Untitled Original 730424c” with the precision of a studio edit. In an shockingly stacked set, “Calypso Frelimo” holds all the gold here, with Miles filling the air with beautiful atmospherics on organ before playfully sparring with Liebman on flute. Chaos builds towards the tune’s back half, but never spirals out of control before stumbling into an astonishing groove around 19 minutes in that’s pure Can and unlike anything we’ve heard from a Miles electric lineup.

Given the majority of Miles’ concerts in Copenhagen were recorded by Danish state media, it’s hard to imagine a more pro document of this show isn’t languishing in the vault. If that’s the case, it’s time to open the gates – this is a peak electric period performance.

Get the tape
1. Band warming up/chatter (:43)
2. Turnaroundphrase (17:34)
3. Tune in 5 (12:51)
4. Ife (21:50) [glitchy intro clears up around 12:00]
5. Untitled Original 730424c (12:32)
6. Calypso Frelimo (23:21)

Lineup
Miles Davis (trumpet, organ)
Dave Liebman (soprano, tenor, flute)
Pete Cosey (guitar, percussion)
Reggie Lucas (guitar)
Michael Henderson (electric bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Mtume (conga, percussion)

10.27.1973 Stockholm

Much like his performances Paris and Berlin, Miles’ concerts in Stockholm were frequently documented by state-run media. While many of those European shows have been released in various iterations of the Bootleg Series, this exceptionally filmed set from Sweden’s capital city remains officially unofficial. Its grey market status aside, the film is a revelation – providing our clearest glimpse yet of the 1973 band in full flight, the often endearing interaction between the musicians, and Miles’ physical gestures and subtle cues that directed the whole affair.

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10.24.1973 Malmö

Just as they had in 1969 and 1971, the Miles Davis live ensemble spent the fall of 1973 on an extensive “Newport Jazz Festival in Europe” all-star tour presented by impresario George Wein. Unlike that 1971 tour in which he set out on the five-week trip with an under-rehearsed teenage Ndugu Chancler behind the kit and a fresh pair of auxiliary percussionists in tow, Miles’ 1973 septet was a finely tuned machine by the time it reached Malmö for the touring festival’s opening night.

By all accounts, the band performed a pair of concerts on this date in Malmö, the second of which was broadcast by Swedish national radio and presented here in somewhat dodgy fidelity. A recording of the first concert is rumored to exist though is not currently in circulation.

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10.17.1973 Paul’s Mall

Following a summer tour of Japan and Europe and a couple of studio sessions that would later be collected on the Complete on the Corner Sessions box, the Miles Davis septet returned to Paul’s Mall in Boston a remarkably different band than the one that performed at the venue just over a year previous. Where Miles’ nine-piece band often teetered on the verge of chaos as it wrestled with the rough textures and polyrhythms of the yet-to-be-released On the Corner LP, the relatively spare 1973 ensemble offers a master class in cohesion, tension and release, and frequently jaw-dropping musicality.

With Miles’ predilection for rehearsing for tours with a multi-night club stand, the string of mid-October dates at Paul’s Mall from which this tape originates served as the band’s warmup for the European tour that began the following week. While session notes suggest the availability of a second tape from a separate night, this recording offers an exhilarating hour-long slice of the band’s October 17th performance as broadcast by WCBN FM.

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7.20.1973 Juan-les-Pins

Miles was no stranger to the Antibes Jazz Festival. Having performed three nights of sets in 1963, the second of which was released as the Miles Davis in Europe LP (nights one and three remain unissued), Miles returned to the fest in 1969 just days before the release of In A Silent Way, and weeks before the sessions that would produce Bitches Brew.

Miles sunbathing in Juan-les-Pins, 1963.

His 1973 set in Juan-les-Pins had the feel of a homecoming; both a return to a stage he’d conquered many times before and the end of the road for an intensive Japanese > European tour that saw the seven-piece band evolve at a remarkable clip. In many ways, this tape from Antibes is a collage of everything that made the band’s summer dates remarkable – long, elastic jams with an undercurrent of intense, heady funk and dark passages of abstract noise, all delivered with a whiff of unpredictability and mind-melting improvisational skill.

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7.17.1973 Verona

On the heels of a performance in Pescara that saw the band take avant funk into some truly uncharted turf, the Miles Davis septet rolled into Verona for another open-air show at an ancient Roman theater on the bank of the Adige. Though outdoor sets were surely a welcome break from the arenas and staid concert halls to which the band had grown accustomed, a handful of venues seemed woefully unprepared for the volume coming off the stage as evidenced by this uncharacteristically uneven pair of sets in Verona.

Despite a dodgy stage mix and jagged grooves that often fail to coalesce it’s impressive to hear the band soldier on through a gig that’s clearly a struggle from the outset. The show’s also an odd one for Miles, who abandons the organ for reasons unknown and sounds downright uninspired on trumpet throughout. A dark night for sure, but not without its bright spots.

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7.16.1973 Pescara

The back stretch of the Miles Davis septet’s Japan > Euro summer tour brought them to the Adriatic coastal town of Pescara for an outdoor festival at the Parco delle Naiadi. Five days removed from a technically challenging but fascinating gig in Paris, the band followed a Keith Jarrett solo set with a truly Jekyll & Hyde performance – the first half a relatively straightforward slab of heavy funk followed by a two-song closing set that’s easily the most gripping, avant-garde 58 minutes of music we’ve heard from an electric Miles lineup.

The audience tape was presumably recorded stage left in close proximity to Reggie Lucas’ amplifier, pushing his constantly wah’d rhythm guitar to the front of the mix. Though a bit overpowering at times, it reveals how crucial this dual-guitar lineup was to the band’s framework, as well as the less-than-subtle James Brown influence that lurked just below the surface.

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